NEW YORK – If Darnell McDonald hasn’t seen it all, he’s come close enough to add some value to Theo Epstein’s front office.
The Cubs hired McDonald as a baseball operations assistant, a new role that will have him visiting minor-league affiliates, scouting amateur players before the draft and coaching during instructional league.
The team announced the move on Tuesday, about a week after the 35-year-old outfielder announced his retirement as a player on his Instagram account. A thoughtful guy with an even-keel demeanor, McDonald had gone to spring training with the Cubs, but decided not to go through with his 17th season in professional baseball.
Playing baseball or quitting the sport altogether became a big decision for McDonald at Cherry Creek High School in suburban Denver, where he emerged as one of the country’s most explosive running backs and signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Texas.
The Baltimore Orioles made McDonald a first-round pick in the 1997 draft. He wound up playing parts of seven seasons with six different big-league teams.
As McDonald worked in the minors, Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis – who once tried to recruit him to the University of Miami – asked if he wanted a shot in the NFL as a running back and kick returner.
McDonald played for the Boston Red Sox during the fried-chicken-and-beer controversy and the Bobby Valentine disaster, cutting his dreadlocks after the New York Yankees claimed him off waivers in 2012.
Just like newly hired special assistant Ted Lilly, McDonald should bring a unique perspective to Year 3 of Epstein’s rebuild.